Justin Rose was left bemoaning a penalty on the 17th green as Portugal’s Ricardo Santos set the pace with a seven-under-par 65 in the Qatar Masters first round on Wednesday.
World No. 4 Rose, the highest-ranked player in the field, incurred a one-shot penalty when his ball moved as he prepared to tap in for par from 18 inches, though he made up for that with a birdie at the par-five 18th for a 68.
Santos, with eight birdies, went one clear of Scotland’s Peter Whiteford, England’s Anthony Wall and Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka, while six players finished on five-under.
Englishman Rose did not touch the ball with his putter and became the second high-profile player to be penalized on this year’s Middle East swing after 14-time major champion Tiger Woods was handed a two-shot penalty in Abu Dhabi last week.
“I feel completely hard done by. The greens here aren’t perfect — there were a lot of little ridges and humps and hollows out there. Indentations I suppose,” Rose told reporters.
“It was unfortunate timing as I put my putter behind the ball, which I know didn’t cause it to move. But it was at the same time the ball was finding a little indentation on the green which obviously caused it to move,” he said.
Rose called the penalty on himself in the tradition of a golfer while he was watched by Manchester United players Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, who were taking time off from their warm-weather training camp in Qatar.
Santos, the European Tour’s rookie of the year last year, scorched around the Doha Golf Club layout in the calm morning conditions with the usual winds only picking up later in the day.
“Well, I just played really well, especially my short game,” the 183rd-ranked Santos said. “Today I missed a few shots from the tee but then recovered very well and just kept it like that.”
“Winning Rookie of the Year gave me a lot of confidence for this season,” said Santos, who finished fourth last week in Abu Dhabi.
“I practice a lot to have a more consistent game and that’s my target for this season, that and just enjoy myself,” he said.
World No. 5 Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, paired with Rose for the first two rounds and Ryder Cup player Martin Kaymer, double-bogeyed the last hole for a 71.
German Kaymer, the 2010 US PGA Championship winner, holed out with his second shot on the fourth for an eagle, but also had trouble on 18 with a bogey as he signed for the same score as Rose.
American world No. 11 Jason Dufner, who is considering taking up European Tour membership to help improve his all-round game, also carded a 71.